(1899–1961). A writer famous for his terse, direct style, Ernest Hemingway was also known for the way in which his own life mirrored the activities and interests of his characters. Many of his works show man pitted against nature, as in his favorite sports—hunting, fishing, and bullfighting. In others he tells of the experiences of wartime—man against man. The immediate appeal of his best writing probably stems from the fact that he wrote of things he knew intimately and that were important to him.
Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. His father was a doctor. After high school Hemingway got a job as a reporter on the Kansas City Star. During World War I he tried to enlist in the armed forces but was rejected because of an old eye injury. He volunteered as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, and in 1918 he was badly wounded.
After the war he settled in Paris, France, where he began to write fiction. He submitted his work for criticism to the poet Ezra Pound and to Gertrude Stein, a writer who served as friend and adviser to many writers of the time.
The first of many collections of stories, In Our Time published in 1925, did not sell well. His novel The Sun Also Rises, which came out a year later, made his name known. It tells of young people in postwar Paris and their search for values in a world that in many ways has lost its meaning.
The writing of books occupied Hemingway for most of the postwar years. He remained based in Paris, but he traveled widely for the skiing, bullfighting, fishing, and hunting that by then had become part of his life and formed the background for much of his writing. His position as a master of short fiction had been advanced by Men Without Women in 1927 and thoroughly established with the stories in Winner Take Nothing in 1933. Among his finest stories are The Killers, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.
In A Farewell to Arms (1929), about war on the Italian front, Hemingway tells a love story that is interspersed with scenes of magnificent battle reporting. To Have and Have Not (1937) shows Hemingway’s interest in social problems, an interest more fully realized in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), set in the Spanish Civil War. In Across the River and into the Trees (1950) an army officer dies while on leave. This novel is generally considered inferior to The Old Man and the Sea (1952), which won a Pulitzer prize in 1953. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
Hemingway was a war correspondent in Spain, China, and Europe during World War II. He was married four times and had three sons. Toward the end of his life he suffered from anxiety and depression. He died on July 2, 1961, in his home in Ketchum, Idaho, of a self-inflicted shotgun wound.
The version reviewed is the revised edition (“restored”) by Hemingway’s grandson in 2009. It wasn’t universally appreciated, mainly because people resist change, especially when it comes to a famous author’s famous work. I’m not going to go into the details here but go Google the topic for yourself and you can read the pros and cons of this version over that one. Let’s just say this version is kinder to young Hemingway’s grandmother.
Much of the back and forth debate is typical of family dynamics. Hemingway went through a lot of women and the original version of the book was published in 1964 by his fourth and last wife, who edited his work with an eye toward herself. It’s hard to fault her for being human and that seems to be the same truth for the new edition edited by the grandson.
Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure”, but I don’t think that goes far enough. It’s insufficient to achieve zen-like tranquility of inner equilibrium in the midst of outer chaos. For that, a lobotomy will do just fine. Being able to stay calm only gets you so far.
The church celebrates the Confession of St Peter on this day, January 18th as a remembrance of Peter’s bold statement to Jesus “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15). It’s important to remember that much was still ahead of Peter. It was fear that later caused him to deny Christ and remorse consumed him afterward, but it was his love for Jesus that led him to a life of bold leadership, ultimately resulting in his martyrdom.
F. Scott Fitzgerald died on this day, December 21st in 1940. Scott and his wife Zelda personified the manic depressive world of The Roaring Twenties which saw a zenith of monetary excess concluding with The Crash of Wall Street. His beautiful prose is among the best of the twentieth century. His friend Ernest Hemingway said, “His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.”
Fitzgerald’s life ended in the tragedy he seemed to foresee. In Tales of the Jazz Age, he wrote
At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That’s a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try. There are only diamonds in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby gift of disillusion.